Thursday, October 27, 2011


Gratitude is the antidote to bitterness and resentment. 
The more light you allow within you,
 the brighter the world you live in will be.  
                                                           Shakti Gawain

     I’ve been asked numerous times if I feel angry and bitter about my circumstances. Have I railed at God, or wished that I had not lived? Some people have even suggested that had they been the ones who had contracted my illness, they would not have wanted to live.

     Honestly, there have been moments when I’ve been angry about my circumstances. If I welcomed everything that has happened to me with open arms, I would either be living in the land of denial, or out and out lying to myself… and everyone else.  I am, after all, human.  I have felt tremendous loss and devastating sadness over these past fourteen years.  But I recognize that if I stay in the darkness of despair, I would never be able to live a full and complete life...a life filled with gratitude.

     I am well centered in my everyday reality. I know what I’m facing when I put my prosthetic legs on before I get out of bed each morning. And there are some days when soreness of my residual limbs or fatigue greets me, even before the prostheses go on. But the knowledge of having another day, being able to get up and face whatever the day holds, trumps the feelings of soreness and fatigue. Recognizing how close I came to not having a life feeds my feelings of gratitude, and enables me to live without bitterness and resentment.

     When my husband, Michael, was diagnosed with cancer—less than two years after my recovery and rehab—I honestly believed that he would live. Even though the oncologist was not optimistic about Michel’s chances, I felt that I had paid the karmic dues for my family. I was convinced that nothing bad would ever touch my family again. I was certain that Michael would have a positive outcome.  But as convinced as I was about his survival, the enormity of my dues paid was still not enough.

     After Michael died, I wrote a letter to everyone who had supported my family during the last stages of his life and subsequent death. It was undoubtedly the most devastating time of my life, and I was tremendously grateful for the support from family and friends. In my letter, I expressed my gratitude for their love, their presence in my life, and in the lives of my children.  I asked my mom to read my letter before I sent it out, wanting her feedback.  After reading it she gazed at me, almost in disbelief.

      “After all you’ve lost,” she began, her voice quivering with emotion, “how can you remain so positive?” 

     I shrugged my shoulders, and said “I guess I view it like this Mom. If I only looked at what I’ve lost, I’d never be able to see what I have.” 

     I’ll admit it.  I am one of “those (annoying) people” who wakes up every morning, grateful for another day. I figure that not only am I lucky to be alive to face my day, but I am lucky to have the choice of how I live each day.  If I chose to live surrounded by my losses, how could the light of hope ever come into my being—my soul? I readily choose that antidote to resentment and despair. I choose to see what I have, and feel darned grateful for it.

     Gratitude is a necessary tool in the Survivor’s tool kit. If you aren’t recognizing at least one thing every day, no matter how big or small, to be grateful for, then you’re not allowing the light of gratitude to brighten up your day. Believe me darkness is pervasive and can be devastating. But allowing even the tiniest ray of light into your life can lessen and often times eliminate the feelings of desperation and despair, especially if that “ray” comes in the form of gratitude.

     So if you find yourself feeling like your life is not a great place to be right now, try to find something in which you feel truly grateful.   When you begin to realize all that you have to be grateful for, the better your life will become. 


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